Everything in life is about balance, and our immune system is no exception. Inflammatory responses initiated by the immune system are helpful when they promote a healing response in instances such as a small cut or injury. But too much inflammation (an over-response by the immune system) can wreak havoc in the body, particularly when it involves the nervous system. Neuroinflammation occurs when there is inflammation in the nervous system, notably in the brain and spinal cord. Conditions that are associated with neuroinflammation include traumatic brain injury (concussions), Alzheimer’s dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and depression.
Clinical depression, we know, is a multi-factorial condition. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that hyper-activation of the immune system resulting in neuroinflammation is one of the factors contributing to the pathology of major depressive disorder (1). Neuroinflammation occurs in response to various threats on the immune system.
What contributes to Neuroinflammation:
Autoimmunity: Also known as an inappropriate immune response. This means the immune system decides to attack parts of the body that it shouldn’t.
Lifestyle factors: Excess weight gain can increase levels of inflammation in the body. Similarly, too much stress does the same thing.
Digestive conditions: In a previous article, I talked about the effect of the gut-brain axis and how inflammation within the digestive system can lead to inflammation in the nervous system.
Infection: Viruses contribute to increased immune system activity resulting in inflammation.
Head trauma: Concussions are like bruises of the brain and require the immune system for healing, but can also result in chronic inflammation.
As a naturopath, I treat the WHY to depression such as neuroinflammation. I also look at other contributing factors such as mental and emotional thought processes, hormonal imbalances, digestive concerns, and more.
1. Khairova, R., Machado-Vieira, R., Du, J., Manji, H. (2009). A potential role of pro-inflammatory cytokines in regulating synaptic plasticity in major depressive disorder. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 12(4), 561-578.